Friday, March 8, 2013

An Interview with... Jennifer Dassau

Once a week I post interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Jennifer here and here.
Where do you find inspiration?

I have a dual path to the things I design; first, they are personal, as in a shape I want to wear or a technique I want to explore, or maybe I have a new yarn that MUST be made into something lovely. Second, I foster an awareness of style trends, which really happens automatically if one is mindful of what's going on in the world around them. Since I started designing, I've become much more visually aware as well, because inspiration can be anywhere from the color of the sky to a street vignette.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

That varies over time depending on what is enthralling at the moment, but my perennial go-to techniques are short rows and anything that I can use to create asymmetry.
How did you determine your size range?

I like to provide as wide a range as possible for adult garments, typically at least 8 sizes. I'll grade from a 30" to a 50"+ bust if the design allows it. 

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I love to look! No one designs in a vacuum, and in fact it's helpful to be aware of what's out there, to prevent spending a lot of time and resources on something that might be identical to an existing design. That happens sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with two people developing the same idea independently, but I'd rather put the energy into something non-duplicative if possible. My idea books are overflowing, so I'm confident that I have enough alternatives if I need to scrap something.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

Is it a controversy? I will say that one of the biggest challenges of writing patterns is defining your audience, and finding the right balance between concise yet helpful instructions. I aim to write the text for the intermediate knitter, but include a very detailed stitch glossary, as well as links to outside tutorials by myself or others as I think helpful. Digital self-publishing is really great for this, because you can include or refer to many helpful things, while keeping the actual written instructions pithy.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I knit every design sample myself, which is essential for me as I "revise on the needle" as needed, from my pre-drafted pattern instructions. Typically I have called for test knitters from my established pool to test a few sizes/samples, but in some cases am moving away from that.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

That's evolving, as I began designing sheerly for the fun challenge of it. In the past year, however, I've dedicated myself to growing my business in an organized way.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

As a relatively new designer, the internet has been huge from day one; I also think that it is the ability to self-publish that motivated me to pursue pattern design seriously.

Do you use a tech editor?

Absolutely; although I'm quite technical and good with detail and writing, my editor is indispensable. You always need another set of eyes.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Constant vigilance! My husband and I both work separately from home, and we have two kids - so there's a lot going on. It's exactly that, a balance; the increased time designing has replaced personal knitting and other fiber craft.

How do you deal with criticism?

It's always most helpful to try to get something productive and positive from a negative. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

I tell my daughter all the time that you have to follow your dreams. Doing what you love really matters, but any artistic career will have better opportunity for success if you research the market, plan your business, and stay flexible.

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